National Gallery of Art - THE COLLECTION
image of Margaret ( Frank Weston Benson (painter)
American, 1862 - 1951
Margaret ("Gretchen") Strong, c. 1909
oil on canvas
overall: 76.8 x 64.2 cm (30 1/4 x 25 1/4 in.) framed: 90.8 x 78.1 x 3.2 cm (35 3/4 x 30 3/4 x 1 1/4 in.)
Gift of Elizabeth Clarke Hayes
Not on View
From the Tour: American Impressionists of the Late 1800s and Early 1900s
Object 1 of 7

An instructor at the Boston Museum school, Frank Benson created lovely daydreams of women and children frolicking outdoors. One of his daughters recalled their family vacations in North Haven, Maine: "Papa would often have us put on our best white dresses and then ask us to sit in the grass or play in the woods. We thought it was so silly and the maids made such a fuss when they saw the clothes afterwards."

These modeling sessions resulted in such idyllic works as Summer of 1909, now in the Rhode Island School of Design, Providence. In that breezy grouping, Margaret Strong, a seventeen-year-old neighbor, looks uphill toward three other girls who, in turn, converse with her or peer out to sea. Delighted with Benson's portrayal of their daughter and also anticipating her forthcoming marriage, Margaret's parents asked him to paint her individually just as she had posed in Summer.

In a very daring maneuver for a commissioned portrait, Benson left Margaret's face still turned away from the sun. He did modify the design by raising the beach line of the distant cape so that, here, it would not cut across her profile. Her striking, coppery red hair frames her head, keys into the warm tan grass, and complements the blue Atlantic and the cool, iridescent shadows. Above all, the dazzling virtuosity of Benson's rapid brushwork captures attention.

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